What are these koshas we hear about in yoga

The Koshas

On our path to Self-realization, we may also encounter discussions of these sheaths of existence known as the koshas or layers of our energetic bodies. From the Sanskrit (thse are basically vedic ideas) kosha means sheath, maya is translated as made of. We move through these so as to experience the purity at the eternal center of consciousness, while at the same time allowing that purity to animate through our individuality. Our chakras are based more in our physical annamaya kosha, we then move into the rest. We will discuss the five koshas which are:

Physical - Annamaya kosha

Energy/breath - Pranamaya kosha

Mental - Manamaya kosha

Wisdom - Vijnanamaya kosha

Bliss - Anandamaya kosha

Self - Atman

The ancient yogis speak of 5 layers, each progressively more ethereal, subtle and deep. The final destination of this path is the realization that we are our self-the atman-the true self which is not based on or affected by experience.  This is the self realization that we are in fact the same life force that is within all things, that we are never changing, we become aware of the unity and the connection.  

How do these koshas relate to the chakra system? To make sense of this we must first understand how this all relates. The annamaya kosha, the food body deals with the first three chakras, the muladhara, the swadistana, and the manipura – our base, more physical chakras. The pranamaya kosha deals related to the anahata chakra, the manamaya kosha deals with the throat chakra, which as we will see has to do with intellect and truth as well. The Vijnamayakosha deals with the ajna chakra, the third eye, and has to do with our intellect. And finally the anandamaya kosha relates to the saharara chakra, our connection to the divine, the composite of bliss and connection to the divine self. The ulitmate goal of spiritual practice and the place where we end up where we are not buffetted by the emotions, we live in truth and peace and enlightenment. No small order!

But we all start where we are, and we start to work through these layers by working with the annamaya kosha.  This is our food body, the part of us that is interested in eating, sleeping, mating-survival.  And as we discussed with the chakra systems, things get stuck here, things need to move and release and this is part of what we achieve with yoga, bodywork and meditation.  We work through this body and into our pranayama body using our breath.  When we have worked through these bodies we progress up to the mind, wisdom and bliss bodies.

Anna means food. All of the physical aspects of life come and go, and are consumed by another aspect of external reality. Thus, the outermost of the koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha.

With yoga practice, we train this aspect of ourselves, take care of it, nurture it, purify it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation time. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, our energetic bodies, our chakra, our emotions, and drives. As we go through this and achieve peace and balance, we go inward, to and through the other koshas. We realize at some point that, although we use this body to identify with, to function with, we are not this body, that our self (atman) is the ever present self, that the experiences we have with our annamaya kosha are that, like movies on a screen, the screen always clean and present, just a field for expression and learning.

When we have calmed the body, strengthened it, we move into our energy body, we do this often at the same time with our pranayama work, and being aware of our breathing.  Prana is the animator of our physical body, it brings life into our lungs, energy to our circulatory and lymphatic systems, and helps us regulate and engage in our emotions.  We all have experienced how our breathing patterns affects our emotions.  That calm when you sit and take a few deep orcleansing breaths....that pause.....and remember that this kosha is related to our heart chakra (anahata) which deals with our heart and lung on a physical level. So this whole system is working together.

Ayurvedic practitioners tell us that the prana moves in 5 ways in our bodies, all helping to purify us.

Prana literally is life energy, and is divided up into five vayus - prana moves the air forward, apana moves moves down and out, udana moves the energy up, samana balances, vyana moves the energy and air out. These are the directions on our prana, and also directions of the universe. In ayurvedic massage, strokes are used in these directions to help cleanse the systems.

The Manomayakosa is our sheath of the mind. This is the part of us that experiences our world. This is the mind, the random sporadic thoughts that arise. The thoughts, the intelligence without the wisdom, it is like technical knowledge.

Vijnamayakosha is the sheath of intellect and wisdom body and “refers to the reflective aspects of our consciousness when we experience a deeper insight into ourselves and the world. As the first three layers begin to syncopate in your yoga practice, a different feeling arises as your wisdom body comes alive. All of a sudden you are not just trying to survive or breathe in a pose, but a shift inside you occurs, as if the spirit of the pose starts to emerge. In Tree Pose, you may begin to feel a steady strength and inner power. In a backbend, it may feel like the sky opens up inside your heart. You are still in the fourth layer of your body when a subjective witness observes these shifts—that inner voice that says, "That feels good!" When the witness of experience dissolves into the experience of the moment, the final layer, anandamaya kosha, the core of bliss begins to shine through. There is a feeling of wholeness and integration, a sense of arriving at your destination, even if you are only there for a moment. This is the radiant core where unconditional love and communion with life arises. In the Upanishads, this bliss body is described as having "joy as the head, contentment as the right arm and delight as the left, bliss as the heart, and Brahman [universal self] as the foundation." Shiva Rhea in her article for yoga Journal “you are here”.


One last thing we need to discuss is Kundalini energy. This explained with the story of Shiva and Shakti...In the beginning, there was pure consciousness, unity. Within this consciousness were two beings, Shiva-the infinite supreme lover, stasis, the never changing, time. Shakti represents the energy and the beloved, change, movement, and space (much like yin and yang in oriental medicine). Shakti lies withing all of us, in our base chakra, coiled as a snake in the guise of Kundalini shakti or the “power at rest”. When she moves she becomes manifest, she ascends to find her lover-shiva, moving through the denseness of our bodies. She is the animator, the prana. When she moves through us, when we find this pure energy, this rise of energy brings us balance, freedom, healing and harmony. This energy moves through our charkas and koshas, residing in the seventh chakra ultimately.

Fantastic Books on Energy Healing

Anatomy of Spirit: The seven stages of Power and Healing (1996) This is such a lovely book, written by Caroline Myss, Ph.D, and discusses our chakra system, it's development and how it is related to the 7 sacraments in the church. I highly recommend this book, I first listened to it in audio form, and then got the print version. This coupled with the developmental discussion that Judith uses in her book, Eastern Body, Western Mind (reviewed later in this section) explain the interaction of our energy bodies/chakra system and how they influence our interactions with others quite well. Caroline Myss is a world renowned speaker on metpahysics and is a medical intuitive.

Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha (1996) Written by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, this book breaks down the physical practice of yoga into an easy to understand, descriptive fashion. Asana is the sanskrit word for pose, Pranayama is sanskrit for the breathwork used in yoga, Mudra are the hand positions and Bandhas are energy locks. All of these components are used in the practice of yoga. He has the book broken down into levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and in each section the kind of asanas such as back bending, twists etc....each pose is described in detail, from the physical move to what chakra and organ system is being affected and how the breath is controlled in the pose. The last few chapters are on shatkarma (ways to purify the body), the psychology of yoga, and a therapeutic index which lists diseases and ailments and lists the asanas, shatkarmas, pranayamas and diet to use to help these ailments, and of course an index to help you find your way. Swami Satyananda Saraswati studied under Swami Sivananda Saraswati, and later became a wandering mendicant. He founded the International Yoga Fellowship in 1956 and the Bihar school in 1963, and has authored over 80 books. He know lives as a monk. This book was used in my first yoga teacher training, and I refer to it often. For this thesis it has helped me find the poses and their influences on the energetic bodies. When I did my second teacher training we refined this knowledge so some of the references are from that as well.

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra Sytem as a Path to the Self (2004) Written by Anodea Judith, this book was used in my advanced teacher training, and truth be told was part of the reason I chose that training. It is a thick in depth book that brings together the chakra system, and developmental psychology. It discusses how our bodies react to the imbalances of our chakra systems, how things affect us differently depending on where we are in our development and how this affects how we see and react to the world. It also gives affirmations and suggestions for bringing balance. I highly recommend this book, but feel that her other book Wheels of Life (reviewed further down the page) should be read first.

Heal your Body: The Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Metaphysical Way to Overcome Them (1982) Written by Louise L. Hay, this is a small reference book that I have kept by my desk for years. It has three short introductions to guide the practitioner in recognizing and changing old habits and ways of thinking and then just list illness, or body parts, or injuries and the psychological reason behind it and then an affirmation to help. Everyone should have this book! It has never failed me.

Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom (1996) written by B.K.S. Iyengar, this book is a combination of his life story and a really good explanation of the yogic path. He does a wonderful job of describing the koshas, and the mental aspects of yoga. We used this book in my advanced teacher training and I loved it. I especially love that he in adamant about embracing your life and incorporating your spiritual path into your life. He was not a well man as a youth and yoga was what gave him his health back and his strength.

Mindfulness and the Brain: A Professional Training in the Science & Practice of Meditative Awareness (2010). This was recorded on April 28, this is a lecture about how our brains react to meditation and mindfulness. It is with Jack Kornfield, Ph.D, one of the leading Buddhist meditation teachers, and Daniel J. Siegel, MD, an inter-relationship neuro biologist, and gives an indepth look at the brain and, its functions and how meditation practice affects and impact our brains. It explains how we can create new patterns in our brain with our spiritual practice.

The Subtle Body: an Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy (2009) By Cyndi Dale. This is a nice compilation of the latest research and findings about our energetic bodies.

The Tantric Way: Art*Science*Ritual (1977) Written by Ajit Mookerjee, and Madhu Khanna, this book gives an overview of Tantra, often cited as the mother of yoga, it has a great introduction that describes the practice of tantra, what it is in reality, versus the bad rep it has gotten. Goes on to show the art, science and ritual of it.

Wheels of Life: A User's Guide to the Chakra System(1978) by Anodea Judith. This book is a great, deep descriptive explanation of the chakra systems. This was one of the first indepth books about the chakras and gives ideas on how to balance and clear your chakras, and how to raise children with healthy chakras. Ms. Judith has a Ph.D in health and human services, an M.A. In clinical psychology, and additional training in bioenergetics, trauma recovery, yoga therapy, and shamanism. She give workshops all over the world and has also written Chakra Balancing, The Seven Fold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body and Spirit through the Chakras, Waking the Global Heart: Humanity's Rite of Passage from Love of Power to the Power of Love, Contact: the Yoga of Relationships and many other others.

Yoga and Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization (1999) by David Frawley. Ayruveda is the sister science to yoga, it is the more medicinal side, it offers us prescriptions of how to live a healthy, balanced life, one that is aligned with our dharma (truth). In this book Frawley goes into detail describing Ayurveda, it's philosophy, our doshas (there are great little tests in many chapters to help find your dosha and other things), how prana and asana affect our bodies, and the eight limbs of yoga and how to incorporate these into our lives to find self-realization and healing. We used this book in my first teacher training and I would very much like to take some classes with Mr. Frawley. This book is well written and easy to understand and apply the appropriate knowledge to your life.

Balancing Our Energetic Body

Our physical bodies are just the beginning, or more aptly put, a part of who we are. Our energetic bodies comprise parts of us that are affected by stress, spiritual depletion, and these, often unseen, un-felt parts of us are often where shifts occur, where abuses are felt most profoundly and what leads to feelings of disconnection and ultimately disease and injury. In this thesis I plan to explore the effects of stress, spiritual depletion and emotions on our body, koshas, and the chakra systems. I will give an overview of these systems, and discuss how we use tantra, yoga and massage to facilitate the healing and balance of these systems. I have had a personal yoga practice for years, and for the past 7 have taught yoga and practiced as a massage therapist and reiki master. I have seen personally and within my students and clients, and fellow practitioner how these practices can be life affirming, life changing.

As we become more balanced we are able to see the world from a more peaceful, connected place and this facilitates healing and balancing the whole world....we are microcosms of the macrocosm....as the Upanishads, an ancient Vedic text tells us

“The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe.
The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars.
Fire and lightening and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not."

Disease first appears in our energetic bodies and there are a few components we need to be aware of when discussing this. Our chakra system and our koshas....these ideas come from ancient Vedic wisdom and are used as templates in much of energetic medicine. I will be discussing these systems, and then move on to discuss how we can use yoga, tantra, sound and bodywork to help clear, balance and heal these systems to help us live a more full, life.

Let's first look at the chakras:

Our chakras are our connection between our energy bodies and our physical bodies.  They are seen as wheels of energy and are located along the sushumna nadi, which corresponds energetically to our spinal column. Each chakra extends outward from us to help create our aura, is concerned with certain attributes, emotions, a color associated with it, a demon that expresses itself when out of balance, and a period in our lives when they are developing.

Beginning with the first chakra-the muladhara:

This chakra sets our base, it deals with our sense of trust, our right to be here, safety, its color is red. Our auric field starts with this chakra extending out about 2 inches from the body.

The muladhara is our foundation and forms when we are in utero in the second trimester through our first year of life.  This is the chakra that helps ground us, deals with our issues of trust  and helps us to set appropriate boundaries.  This developmental challenge coincides with Erik Erikson's trust vs mistrust-”[this] trust or mistrust is the basic element of your first chakra program, which is a foundation for all the other programs to follow” (Judith 2004). Around 6 months of age, when we sit up “an amazing changes takes place. [we] become vertical on our own for the first time. The chakras are now stacked up on each other, and the energy begins to flow upwards. Parents often notice the increase in brightness and presence....sitting up expands the field of visual perception, and consequently the size of the world, marking the beginning of the second chakra.” (Judith 2004)

The demon of this chakra is fear.

Caroline Myss relates the 7 sacraments in the christian church to the development of our chakras, the development of self and notes that the timing of the sacraments is important and helps solidify what is going on developmentally, that these sacraments give an energetic boost when we need them. Corresponding to this first chakra is the sacrament of baptism. A welcoming into our tribe, a merging of our energy with the tribes (our family and traditions and the community at large), a sense of gratitude is given for the child and his part in the community and in this way there is a sense of belonging, safety and security given to the child.

When this chakra is balanced, we feel comfortable in our body, we are able to relax and be still, knowing that we are safe, and we have a sense of trust in the worlds around us.

When this chakra is out of balance we may feel fearful, worry much too much about our prosperity- feeling there may be not enough, or we may feel a feeling of disconnect from our bodies.

Physically this chakra deals with our legs, feet, the areas that connect us to mother earth.

Moving up our spine we come to the second chakra-the Swadhistana Chakra:

This chakra is located near our sacrum, just above the muladhara, and a few inches below the naval, its auric qualities joining with our first chakra's and extending out to about 3 inches.

This is our center for our emotions (if you have ever taken a yoga class I am sure you have heard the teachers say, we hold our anger in our hips, we hold a lot of emotions there-in fact I have a friend and fellow yoga teacher who affectionately calls our hips the junk drawer of our emotions), sensuality, desire, movement, and sexuality.  The element associated with this chakra is water, whereas the muladhara chakra forms our base, it's element being earth, the fluid nature of the svadhisthana is contained by our, hopefully, healthy first chakra.  You see these systems build on and feed off one another.  Our emotions need to be able to flow just as water flows, and at the same time need containment of the first chakra, almost like a glass contains the wine.

This Rumi poem reminds me of the fluidity that is needed in this chakra

Life flows out; he pours you another cup.
The wine? Eternal love.
His wine in me sings this:
His wine flows between us like blood. 

- Jalal-ud-Din Rumi

The Swadistana chakra is developing from around 6 months to 2 years old, coinciding with us sitting up, and starting to move on our own, this is one of the ways movement is associated with this chakra as well, again reminding us to flow.

The color associated with this  chakra is orange, and it is developing in our early lives, from about 6 months old through about our 2nd birthday corresponding with our developmental tasks of locomotion and sensate exploration of the world.

The demon of this chakra is guilt.

When this chakra is balanced we have grace in our movements, emotional intelligence, the ability to experience pleasure, we are able to nurture ourselves and others, change and flow with the situation and have healthy boundaries.  If we are deficient in this area we are rigid in our bodies, fear change, have excessive boundaries and lack desire and passion.  If we are excessive in this area we may have an addiction to pleasure, wild mood swings, be over sensitive and invade others boundaries.

All aspects of our lives can be sensual and enjoyable, just sitting and letting the sun wash over your face on a lovely fall day, eating a delicious peach, full of sweetness and nectar qualifies as a sensual experience. In your daily life try to find those pleasurable moments and savor them.  Take the time out of your day and just be with and relish the pleasure you have all around you.

Communion is the Sacrament that is associated with this chakra, this is the chakra that we form unions with others, intimately and otherwise. Communion allows us to formalize the union with others, to join the group, and to know that “everyone in your life plays a role in your development” (Myss 1996). This is the chakra where we connect with others and our emotions.

Physically this chakra deals with our hips, our abdomen, our reproductive and excretory organs.

Continuing to move upward-towards the navel-the third chakra-The Manipura Chakra:

In Sanskrit  Manipura means lustrous gem

This is our chakra for transforming, it is our center for personal power, our center for the digestive fire.  

Located in the solar plexus it's color is yellow, and its sound is ram, and energetically also overlaps it's preceding chakra and reaches out about 8 inches.

It's demon is shame.

When this chakra is balanced we have good self esteem, are warm and self confident and have appropriate self-discipline.  We are able to meet life's challenges and have a sense of our own personal power.  It is interesting to note that this chakra is the only chakra that is not held up and protected by bones, we must really keep this area active, and strong with our will.

When we are out of balance in this chakra we may experience low energy, low self esteem and poor digestion, our mid section can be collapsed and we may be attracted to stimulants.  If we are excessive in this chakra we tend to be aggressive, controlling, power hungry and perhaps attracted to sedatives.

This chakra is developing from about a year and half to about four years old. And as you can see the chakras are developing together and alongside of each other, it is definitely a system that works in concert.  As we grow into our adult selves these centers of energy build on each other, as we grow and develop, the balance moves up... in the case of the manipura We take this fire and self confidence and it helps to open our heart, to hold us up, and help us to love and be loved with balance and confidence. 

The Sacrament associated with this chakra is comfirmation, Caroline Myss states that this is an “espression of grace that enhances one's individuality and self esteem” She reminds us that we need to keep our promises to ourselves and value ourselves at this level too.

Physically this chakra deals with our digestive systems, our core muscles.

Moving to our heart center-The Anahata Chakra :

"The heart has its own language. 
The heart knows a hundred thousand
ways to speak." 
— Rumi

The heart chakra our center for love, universal love, giving and receiving love, and extends out about 6 to 12 inches past our bodies. As our devotional practice of yoga develops, our hearts open and we are more aware of the love in our lives.  This chakra involves love and also balance as it is the mid way between the lower three chakra (which deal with more earthly traits) and the upper three (which deal more with ethereal qualities).  This chakra also deals with our devotions, reaching out and taking in and our relationships and self love (again often a balance).  

This chakra's color is green, its element is air, and its demon is grief.  This chakra is developing in our early childhood years, around the time between 4 and 7 years old.  This is the same time we are forming our social identity, our gender roles and our peer relationships.

It is also interesting to note, that when we leave home, when we start out on our adult lives our chakras begin developing all over again (starting with the first chakra-re-establishing our ground and stability and moving up through all of the other 7), and in our mid life our heart chakra has a surge, a revisiting of growth and this is when we re-examine our lives, our relationships, our paths, and what is often seen as a midlife crisis, is truly just a re-assessment of life and love and devotion to our paths and our dharmas.

When this chakra is balanced, we are compassionate, loving, self-loving, peaceful and balanced, and have a good immune system.  On a physical level this chakra deals with the hearts, lungs, shoulder area, so when it is off kilter we see issues dealing with these areas:

issues with the heart and lungs, asthma, circulation problems, shoulder issues, sunken chest...we also may see fear of relationships, narcissism, lack of empathy, poor boundaries, jealousy...

The Sacrament Myss attributes to this area, is marriage...a union with another, stated publicly, and made in love, the ultimate connection. But she warns us that we must first view ourselves with the same love, commitment and devotion to have that great union. We must keep our promises to ourselves too.

Moving even higher-to the throat- theVissudha chakra:

This chakra deals with communication, self expression, truth and creativity.  It is developing in our grammar school years, from about 7 to 12 years of age. This chakra of communication reaches out to about 24 inches from the body.

It's color is bright blue and it's demon is lies.  This chakra has to do with our truths, speaking them and being able to differentiate the truth around us.  If we were dealing with lies, mixed message,verbal abuse and criticism growing up we may have an imbalance in this chakra.  

When this chakra is balanced we are good listeners, have a resonant voice, and communicate clearly.  When this chakra is balanced we are in touch with our creativity and live our lives creatively.

When we are off kilter in this chakra we may have a small weak voice, difficulty putting our feelings into words, a fear of speaking...on the other side of a fifth chakra inbalance we may find that we are excessive talkers, we have trouble listening and hearing what others say, we may gossip or we may have disorders of the throat, ears, neck and jaw.

"To fully live our truth as individuated beings is to live life as a creative act."  Anodea Judith

Myss feels that this is the chakra associated with confession, and allows us to “cleanse one's self of negative acts of will” she goes on to say that this was our first form of talk therapy, that it is so important for us to have this available to us, to help us work through our issues, and find our truth.

Our third eye- theAjna Chakra:

 This is our chakra for perception and intuition

Located at our eyebrow center, this chakra is responsible for pattern recognition,

imagination, visualization, dreams and insights.

The color associated with it is Indigo-the color of a deep blue pair of blue jeans.

This chakra develops during adolescence and helps to establish our personal identity. As you can imagine this chakra's demon is illusion. Aurically this chakra reaches out to about 2 to 2 and a half feet from our physical body.

When we have a balanced ajna chakra we are in touch with our intuition, our perception and imagination. We have a good memory, good dream recall and are able to visualize things.

When we are inbalanced here we may have hallucinations, delusions, obsessions, nightmares and difficulty concentrating or we may have poor vision, see things in a monopolarized way or poor memory.

Since this chakra is located between the third eye physically, we may experience headaches, and problems with our senses when it is out of balance, or when we fail to see the truth and patterns around us/not being open to the messages that we are receiving.

As you can imagine as we move up higher in this system, the chakras are dealing with less grounded areas, more spiritual, thought filled, ethereal areas finally and as we will see when we discuss the seventh chakra more and more connected with the divine.

Myss says the Sacrament associated with this is ordination, choosing and making a commitment to your path of service. This does not necessarily mean that we are ordained as women or men of the cloth, but that we make a commitment to the path we are on, and our contribution to the world around us.

And finally our crown chakra- the Sahasrara Chakra:

This chakra is located at the crown of our head, or just above it.  It's element is thought, it is our connection to the divine, it's purpose is understanding. This part of us reaches out into the environment about 30 to 42 inches.

The color associated with this chakra is violet, and it is developing when we are young adults and into our adulthood.  This is a period often marked by us trying to find our path, our purpose in life, something larger than the mundane. Remember back to the time when you were graduating high school and a few years beyond....that feeling of connection and searching for something larger.

When we are balanced in this area, we are able to perceive, analyze and assimilate information.  We are intelligent, thoughtful, and aware, open minded and able to question and are spiritually connected.

Imbalances in this chakra can show up as spiritual cynicism, learning difficulties, rigid beliefs or can go the other way and show up as overintellectualization, spiritual addiction, confusion and dissociation from the body. Due to this chakras location, imbalances will manifest on the physical plane as migraine, amnesia, cognitive delusions to name a few.  To help heal this area we can reestablish physical and emotional and spiritual  connections, engage in meditation, seek psychotherapy, and study.

In Kornfiels and Siegel's discussion on mindfulness and the brain, they tell us that we can make new pathways with intentions, that in the past scientists believed that once we were adults, our brains stopped developing, and if anything closed down sections, but in reality it is the opposite. That we can actually change the way our mind is structured with persistent meditation practice. That we can shift the way we think.

Myss goes on to tell us that the sacrament associated with this chakra is extreme unction, aka last rights, merging with the divine and finishing any unfinished business, not in the sense of doing this before you die, but as a part of daily life, staying present, loving and living in the present moment. Which is a recurrent theme in meditation practices and eastern philosophies.

It is interesting to note that chakras, and the 7 energy centers are not only found in hindu/vedic systems. The Tibetans speak of them, as do the mayans, and the Cherokee, and the Incans. There is an understanding of these energy systems through out the world's cultures.

Things to nurture our chakras

All types of bodywork help us clear and balance our energy. Reiki is a very gentle for of healing that helps to bring balance to our energetic body, and peace to our mind. It gives our life energy a boost. Rei means universal and ki means life force.

Lomi Lomi massage works in the same way, a flowing massage that treats the whole body, the Hawaiians believed that we must treat the whole person, because we do not know where the blockage might be? There are a lot of down strokes in this massage, to clear the energy off the person.

Thai massage works in the same fashion and both lomi lomi and thai use a lot of stretching to help loosen joints and the body.

Ayurvedic medicine has many tools to help us purify our bodies, starting with the breath, through massage with oil to draw the toxins out, to digestive treatments, all work together to purify our bodies and koshas. Even sound healing is used in treatments.

Tantra teaches us to embrace each experience as holy, bringing us peace to move through life. Tantra is a unification of the duality of male/female, yin/yang...it unites shiva and shakti through yoga, breathwork, mantra, sound and at times hallucinogens, and sex. It does not tell us to not do things, to be renunciates, but encourages us to embrace our longings and experience it all to find our true balance.

Some other things to help heal our chakras and move us through our koshas:

As we discussed the muhladhara chakra is our base, our connection to the earth and our security. Things that help nourish this area are yoga, massage, being bare foot in nature, and reclaiming our right to be here. 

Some affirmations you can use:

It is safe for me to be here

The earth supports me and meets my needs

I love my body and trust it's wisdom

The world is an abundant place

Some yoga poses to nurture this chakra are: (for a detailed description of these poses see the book listed in the review -Asana, Pranayam, Mudra, Bandha)



cat and cow rolls



down dog



and so many more

poses and walking with a feeling of being grounded and supported by the earth is very nourishing to this chakra center

For our second chakra movement is the key, as are poses that focus on the hip regions such as:


baddha konasana

hip circles




happy baby

flowing movements such as:

coat sleeves

dancing or any other free flowing movement that allows you to move your body in the ways it needs. One of the best workshops I have been too, is Dance of the liberation. This is a wonderful shamanic ritual, where the participants are cleansed with sage and with global music, we dance, and the “gatekeepers” do mini healing sessions on you towards the end. There was something so freeing about dancing blindfolded. It allows a flow that we may not access otherwise.

Some affirmations to help this chakra are:

I deserve pleasure in my life.

I absorb information from my feelings.

I move easily and effortlessly.

I know from personal experience, that hip openers can release a lot of emotion. During teacher training I got in a double pigeon, and cried all day....was good to get it out!

For our third chakra we want to strenthen, warm and build the body-yoga poses that can help with this are:



leg lifts

sit ups

torso twist and all twists

as you can see these are poses that strengthen the abdomen, and work our digestive fire.

Some affirmations for this chakra are:

I honor the power within me

The fire within me burns through all blocks and fears.

For our heart chakra we want to strengthen our chest, our breathing, and open our shoulders and collarbones.

To help balance this chakra we can do breath work (pranayama), journaling, working with the arms, forgiveness, self acceptance. 

Yoga poses for the heart chakra are chest openers and backbends such as:

cobra (bhujangasana)

up dog (urdhva mukka svanasana)

bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana)

wheel (urdhva dhanurasana)

camel (ustrasana)

Some affirmations for this chakra:

I am worthy of love

I am loving to myself and others

There is an infinite supply of love

I live with balance with others

It is important to note, that we must have a healthy strong 3rd charkra for us to be able to open this 4th chakra...this is evident in poses such as up dog, wheel....the third chakra is the only chakra that is not protected by bone, skeletal structure-except the spinal cord...core work is important...

As a yoga teacher, I had a student, Abby, who went through a horrible divorce/custody issues...when I helped her into a wheel, her response was right on...wow, this is a lot of trust...I would never have let a male teacher get me here, I trust you will not let me go...this was a huge step for her...to be able to open her heart and hold her self up.

In my personal life, my god son, Dylan was 4 (the time when this chakra is developing) and one of his grand mothers told him to not cry...you could see his whole body stiffen, his chest close down---what Anodeao Judith calls character armor started building around his heart that day...he began to not be open to his own feelings.

Moving up to our throat chakra, and things to strengthen this center for truth and communication are asanas such as:

neck rolls


shoulder stand


practicing silence
and chanting

some affirmations for this area are:

I hear and I speak the truth.

I express myself with clear intent.

Creativity flows in and through me.

My voice is necessary.

For our ajna chakra, our center for wisdom and intuition we can practice meditation, dreamwork, guided visualizations, and art therapy.

Some affirmations for this chakra are:

*I see all things clearly*

*I am open to the wisdom within*

*I can manifest my vision*

Some yoga poses to help balance and bring energy to this chakra are:

Virabhadrasana 3-warrior 3


Natarajasana-dancer's pose


These balancing poses help with our concentration and to focus our awareness.

Some affirmations for this area are:

*Divinity resides within

*I am open to new ideas

*information I need comes to me

*The world is my teacher

And finally asanas to nurture our crown chakra are:

*Hare/ Sasamgasana

*1/2 Moon/ Ardha Chandrasana

 *Headstand/ Girsasana

*Corpse/ Savasana

The experiences that I have personally had and the observations I have made as a teacher and a bodyworker, are that we need to have this balance in our lives. That we have the power within each of us to adjust our thinking, our lifestyles and nurture ourselves.

As Debbie Ford says “Each of us is given only one temple to be responsible for, and we are living in it. Are you taking care of your temple or ignoring it to care for others? “ and this is a must. We have to take the time to do the introspection, to seek help from others when we need it, be that helper/healer a friend, a therapist, a yoga teacher, a priest, a parent...who ever, but we all have the ability to heal ourselves, and to work through our stuff. As the ancient yogis tell us, it is first through our body (anamayakosha) that we can begin to find this peace and healing. We can calm our bodies, then our breath, then our minds and find that peaceful place.

As we find the thing that resonates us to move the energy around our body we start to feel better, for some of us it is running, walking, yoga, dance....but the ancient sciences of ayurveda, yoga and bodywork work systematically to help release these holdings in our bodies.

One more quick note, whatever path you choose to find balance and healing in your life, must resonate with you. This is part of the lesson of the first chakra....listening to you body. For some yoga works, for others it is walking, running....when choosing a healer to help you, you must feel at ease with him or her, not coerced...and you must find value in what he or she is giving you. I have had clients who love reiki, my favorite of which was a man, who's girlfriend got him my mother's day special (hour massage ending with a half hour reiki session)-he was a single dad, and she felt (as did I) that this was appropriate. He had never had a massage or reiki, at the end of his session he said he felt like a butterfly, when I started doing reiki he quieted down, had been chatting the whole massage, and just went to a peaceful place. He loved it. I have had other clients who just do not resonate with reiki. It is truly a personal thing.



Dale, Cyndi (2009)

The Subtle Body: and Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy. Sounds True; Boulder CO

Frawley, David (1999)

Yoga & Ayurveda: Self-healing and Self-realization. Lotus Press; Twin Lakes, Wisconsin

Hay, Louise L. (1982)

Heal Your Body: the Mental Causes for Physical Illness and the Metaphysical way to Overcome the. Hay House inc.; Carson CA

Iyengar, B.K.S. (1996)

Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom . Rodale

Judith, Anodea (1996)

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. Celestial Arts; Berkley

Judith, Anodea (1978)

Wheels of Life: A User's Guide to the Chakra Systems. Llewellyn Publications; St Paul Minnesota

Kornfield, Jack Ph.D, and Siegel, Daniel J. MD (2010)

Mindfulness and the Brain: a Professional Training in the Science and Practice of Meditative Awareness. Sounds True; Boulder CO

Mookerjee, Ajit, and Khana Madhu (1977)

The Tantric Way. Thames and Hudson; London

Myss, Caroline (1996)

Anatomy of the Spirit: the Seven Stages of Power and Healing. Three Rivers Press; New York

Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (1996)

Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Yoga Publication Trust; Bihar India

Internet resources








UMS classes

Rediscovering Tantra: A Path for our Times

Gary Allen Woodcox